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Elsevier Science

J Clin Anesth. 1992 Nov-Dec;4(6):489-97. doi: 10.1016/0952-8180(92)90226-q.

To define a specialty: a brief history of the American Board of Anesthesiology's first written examination.

Journal of clinical anesthesia

D R Bacon, M J Lema


  1. Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY 14263-0001.

PMID: 1457120 DOI: 10.1016/0952-8180(92)90226-q


The initial written examination of the American Board of Anesthesiology, a division of the American Board of Surgery, was given on March 28, 1939. For all anesthesiologists, this date has double significance. First, what was meant by anesthesiology as a medical specialty was defined through the questions posed on the first examination. Second, the physicians being tested that day were among the first physician-anesthetists to exploit the newly created path to recognition as specialists in the science and art of anesthesia by the American medical hierarchy. Gaining the support of organized medicine was an involved and arduous struggle that consumed most of the 1930s. A triumvirate of visionaries, Paul Wood, John Lundy, and Ralph Waters, was necessary to crystalize the goal of specialty recognition of physician-anesthetists. The first written examination was the consummation of this dream of equal status for anesthesia. The examination would not become repetitious, and within the first decade of testing, the style would change from an essay format to multiple-choice questions similar to the current form.

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